According to population estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Houston’s suburbs are growing much more rapidly than the City itself. As late as 2015, the City was still growing at a rapid pace, only slightly behind its suburbs. Since then, growth in the entire region has slowed, but inside the City it has come to a virtual standstill. In 2019 the City grew by a whopping 1,695 residents (0.07%).
The most stunning statistic coming from the new estimates is that since 2015, the “net domestic migration” for Harris County (i.e., the difference in how many people have left Harris County to move somewhere else in the U.S. and how many moved to Harris County from other places in the U.S.) was a negative 136,000. During the same time, the six counties surrounding Harris County had a net domestic migration of a positive 148,000.
The low point for population growth throughout the region was 2018, which should not be surprising since that is the time period when the effects of Harvey would have been the greatest. What is interesting, however, is that the entire region, except the City of Houston, showed a rebound after Harvey in 2019.
All of Texas’s major metropolitan counties have experienced a slowing of their growth as well. Harris County is in about the middle of the pack with El Paso and Dallas lagging even farther behind and Travis, Bexar and Tarrant doing somewhat better.
It should not be too surprising that Texas is growing somewhat more slowly. That is only natural after a rapid expansion, especially when combined with a challenging environment for our major industry. But for the growth in the state’s largest city come to a dead stop should be a warning sign. People and companies have choices. Ultimately, they can and will vote with their feet. If local governments do not create a reasonable value proposition and an attractive quality of life in their communities, existing residents will leave, and potential new residents will go somewhere else.